Can a state enforce laws that significantly reduce the availability of abortion services while failing to advance any valid interest, including the state’s interest in promoting health?
In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2 (“H.B. 2”), which imposed new requirements on abortion clinics. For example, H.B. 2 required a physician performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the abortion clinic. Whole Woman’s Health, a private abortion clinic, sued the state of Texas to lift the new restrictions. The Supreme Court will determine whether a state can enforce laws that significantly reduce the availability of abortion services while failing to advance any valid interest, including the state’s interest in promoting health. Whole Woman’s Health argues that H.B. 2 imposes an undue burden on women’s access to abortions. Hellerstedt contends that H.B. 2’s justification of improving patient health is supported by substantial evidence, and H.B. 2 will not impose a burden in the majority of cases. This case implicates H.B. 2’s effect on women’s health and H.B. 2’s imposed costs on women seeking abortions.
Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties
1a. When applying the Due Process Clause standard associated with the Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey decision, does a court err by refusing to consider whether and to what extent laws that restrict abortion for the stated purpose of promoting health actually serve the government’s interest in promoting health?
1b. Did the Fifth Circuit err in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health—or any other valid interest?
2. Did the Fifth Circuit err in holding that res judicata provides a basis for reversing the district court’s judgment in part?
Lindsey Cook and Kimberly Leonard, Explaining Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Abortion Case, U.S. News (Jan. 11, 2016).
Emma Green and Matt Ford, A New Supreme Court Challenge: The Erosion of Abortion Access in Texas, The Atlantic (Nov. 13, 2015).
Adam Liptak, Supreme Court to Hear Texas Abortion Law Case, The New York Times (Nov. 13, 2015).